My Lincoln course is in its final weeks and I couldn’t be more disappointed as it’s has been a wonderful experience. Judging by the tone and quality of discussions the students continue to enjoy the subject and are finding interesting ways to share their knowledge. We continue to read secondary sources and yesterday we discussed Lincoln’s Reconstruction plan and Louisiana specifically as a case study. The lesson was centered on Lincoln’s short exchange with three representatives from Louisiana’s planter class who asked for the state to be allowed entry back into the Union with all the rights that the state enjoyed before secession. Hopefully we will have a few days to discuss various aspects of Lincoln’s legacy and memory before the end of the semester. On the flip side my class is in the process of developing a Facebook page around a new Lincoln cereal for the bicentennial. They must come up with a cereal name, design the box, and design the cereal itself. All of it must have a rationale based on the history. The box will come with educational materials that must also be designed by the students.
For their final project we will take a class trip to the American Civil War Center at Tredegar. Students will be asked to evaluate how the main exhibition interprets Lincoln within the broader narrative of the war. The notes they take will serve as the foundation for a final essay in lieu of a final exam. The goal of the essay will be to compare the museum exhibit with the various secondary sources that we’ve read over the course of the semester. It is important to place students in an active role when thinking about the past. In this case they need to learn to appreciate, to whatever extent possible, that public exhibits involve decisions and interpretation. My other goal is to give students an opportunity to synthesize much of what they’ve read this semester and to remind them that interpretation is always open-ended.
As I was thinking about this assignment I thought that it would be nice if my students could develop their own museum exhibit on Lincoln. The idea would be for students to utilize a program that would allow them to construct a 3-D space with artifacts and descriptions within an overarching interpretation. I’m sure the technology is available. This would be an excellent way for museums to further their educational outreach with area schools.